Sharmin Akter, Managing Director, Total Solutions Group offers advice on fire and flood damage restoration
Fire and water damage can have a very significant effect on your company and your employees, both financially and socially. Regularly assessing risks, and taking steps to reduce these, will help to tighten up operations and safeguard people, while a Business Continuity Plan should enable emergency procedures to be implemented rapidly should the worst happen. Speed is of the essence in any disaster situation, as the quicker action is taken the less damage is likely to occur, and the greater the number of assets that will be recoverable.
The damage fires cause to businesses and homes is often devastating and can leave buildings unusable for long periods of time. The immediate visual damage can be distressing enough, without the secondary effects such as soot odour, corrosion and potential health problems. It is essential that fire damage is cleaned up immediately, as there will otherwise be further deterioration of buildings and equipment.
Fire and soot contamination can leave a property in a terrible state, with secondary damage of a number of types likely. The acidic soot and smoke particles, often propelled under pressure during the fire, infiltrate every surface and can cause corrosion. Porous surfaces expand in the heat, allowing the soot and odours to enter and trapping them when the pores close. However, the particles can then migrate back to the surface over time. Hazardous substances formed during combustion create a toxic environment, often impregnating furnishings and textiles, and the process of extinguishing the fire is likely to cause damage, including water damage. In addition, fire damaged properties may be open to the elements for a period of time until properly sealed. If you are unfortunate enough to experience fire and smoke damage it is essential that you take rapid action.
Each fire is unique and the damage needs to be dealt with using appropriate knowledge and experience to bring about the best possible results. It is absolutely vital to ensure an effective restoration is performed, maintaining the structural integrity and value of your property. A rapid response is vital, so as soon as safe to do so, specialist restoration companies will assess the fire and smoke damage and determine what items can be recovered. The remediation process requires a scientific understanding of materials, combustion and the chemical reactions that take place and the techniques required to deal with the particular damage that has occurred. It is important to categorise the damage and prioritise the urgency of items and areas for action. Any fire damaged item of value yet salvageable should be given high priority, as deterioration starts within 24 hours.
Fire and smoke can cause damage to a property in many ways and the outcome will depend on building design, materials, temperature, pressure and weather conditions. Complete removal of soot and smoke will be required throughout the building, and sand blasting or eco blasting may be needed, as well as odour control techniques and building maintenance. A professional company will provide a guarantee that buildings, contents, oak beams, brick, machinery and assets will be free from all incident related contaminants, such as smoke and soot, when the work is complete.
FLOOD OR WATER DAMAGE
There are many causes of flooding and water damage from extreme external elements to minor plumbing malfunctions. These include major UK disasters, extreme weather conditions, melting ice, burst pipes, leaks, and firefighting water. Even if the cause of the damage is minor, the consequences can be devastating and can include damage to ceilings, floors and carpets, machinery, paint and insulation.
Flooding and water damage can bring the risk of significant financial losses for businesses and so it is important to limit the damage and return operations to normal as soon as possible. Fast action ensures the best chance of restoring your property back to its original state, avoiding permanent damage and recovering the assets. The pressure of large volumes of water in severe floods may affect the structure and integrity of the property, so the clean-up operation should be handled by experts in damage management.
It is important to prioritise what needs to be done immediately, to mitigate further damage or to fast track the restoration of a key business area, and to identify areas that can be left until urgent essential work is completed. The first actions will normally involve removing the standing water and recovering assets from the building, as well as checking whether there are any remaining leaks, using specialist trace and access equipment. Moisture levels can then be measured and a full record of damage made, before deploying appropriate technical drying equipment with a carefully controlled plan.
Rapid Drying Systems (RDS) are the most effective and work by drawing in air from the atmosphere, drying or heating that air, then injecting it into the affected building. This method increases the moisture content each cubic metre of air can hold, ensuring the building can be dried as quickly and effectively as possible. This creates a hot air chamber within the building, which absorbs moisture from the building’s structure and contents like a sponge. The moisture is then removed from the building using specialist venting systems, reducing the likelihood of continuing damage. Among the benefits of RDS are that they can be managed remotely, from start to finish, with the entire system monitored via the internet to ensure that the temperature and humidity are optimised for safe, fast drying. This helps to make the drying process more efficient, saving money on further building maintenance, as well as being environmentally friendly.
Depending on the nature of the building and the water damage, disinfection to destroy microorganisms and mould may be needed, together with odour neutralisation and removal of water stains. In addition, the building contents will need drying and often restoring by specialist technicians, using the latest technology to remove all traces of water. UV technology is used for examination and cleaning, and ozone chambers can be used to destroy spores, mould and bacteria and to neutralise troublesome odours.
The priority following a fire or flood is to return the affected property to its pre-incident condition as quickly as possible, minimising secondary damage and disruption. This requires a rapid response from experts, who are available 365/24/7, who can assess the damage, often in conjunction with the insurer’s representative, and recommend and implement the most effective course of action. Minimising the time the business is out of operation requires a carefully planned programme of work to ensure that restoration is completed safely and on budget.